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Definitive guide to New Delhi's Hauz Khas Village
Mumbai could use a lesson from the capital on building cool urban creative communities
The streets are crumbling and the wires overhead are irreversibly tangled. New Delhi's historic Hauz Khas Village (HKV) may be a bit scruffy at the edges, but there's no funkier spot in the capital to shop, eat and generally enjoy the vibe.
Designer Bina Ramani opened one of the city's first independent fashion boutiques here decades ago on account of its authentic village atmosphere.
By the late 1980s, HKV had a manicured park, more than 40 designer stores and a few restaurants that catered to a foreign clientele.
Owners set up the Creative Arts Village Association, hoping to work together for the improvement of village conditions.
Activity in Hauz Khas hummed along through the 1990s and the Village, with a deer park, water reservoir and crumbling monuments, has been well-loved for its mid-city sense of seclusion.
In the last four years musicians, designers, travelers, foodies, readers of journals and little books, art and poster-collectors, map makers, social activists and the Delhi LGBT community have set up homes and shops here.
“HKV is a throbbing hub where the alternative creative instinct can express itself freely -- there is an ingrained sense of fair play and camaraderie here which is rare in this hugely competitive city," says Arpita Das, owner of Yodakin, a new free press bookstore tucked into the middle lane of the village.
This is most apparent at the Village’s Open Nights, which take place every few months (see Facebook), when narrow alleyways are adorned with lights and streamers (homemade with spray painted white cloth) and it feels as though a chic Diwali mela might be under way.
New Delhi’s usual suspects appear village-hopping: it becomes a time to meet every creatively inclined acquaintance in the city, watch some videos, cool down at a café and listen to music.
This month CNNGoTV also toured Hauz Khas Village with local musicians Tapan Raj and Gaurav Raina.
What follows is a definitive guide to HKV's enclosed boulevard of small entrepreneurs.
Get to Hauz Khas Village by Metro: Yellow line to Green Park
By Road: Take a left after Aurobindo Market and keep straight. Makeshift parking is on the left at the start of the village walk.
Coffee and Wi-Fi: Flipside Cafe
With free Wi-Fi and music with predictable beats, Flipside is a great place to work on weekdays.
Raavi and Robbie, the brothers from Manali who run this place, have an attentive urban-rural aesthetic that makes all kinds of people feel welcome.
Ask about the cake that has most recently come out of the oven, and devour it with a shot of espresso.
Expect to share a table if the place is full, but be sure you’ll end up chatting with them, like on a plane and you'll probably exchange numbers afterwards. Meal for two Rs 300.
7 Hauz Khas Village; +91 991 0173 873, (0) 11 2651 6341; open Wednesday-Monday 10:30 a.m.–9 p.m.
Coffee and Wi-Fi: Kunzum
To sit around on some cushions, and do more serious work, Kunzum has free Wi-Fi and unlimited tea and fresh Coorgi coffee.
The rectangular space is pitched as a travel café, harboring books on India and adventuring abroad, beautiful photography from several people’s journeys and the occasional reading or slide presentation from a traveler’s diary.
And when you exit, there’s a wooden box, the likes of which you’d find on treasure island.
It says: "Pay what you want."
T49 Hauz Khas Village; +91 965 0702 777; open Tuesday-Sunday 11 a.m.-7.30 p.m.
Village bakery: Elma's Bakery
The folks from The Living Room bring you tea and scones at this quaint, little dollhouse of a teashop. Elma's aroma wafts down the alleys and pulls you towards it.
Carry your silver spandex, so you can head to TLR after and bust out your most scrumptious moves.
24/1 Hauz Khas Village, +91 (0)11 2652 1022; open Monday-Thursday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday-Sunday 9 a.m.- 8 p.m.
Music with food: The Living Room (TLR)
The Living Room is hip because it's self-aware.
If you don’t have any accessories, (not even a fake mustache?), worry not, a girl wearing a wreath on her head will come and adorn you with some.
They’re all functional -- garlands, whistles, pom-poms -- so use them to pump up the city's more marginal live bands, DJs and video projectionists that mix their beats and get you heated.
If you need more heat, try the Worcestershire Old Monk rum mixed into a cocktail called a Bloody Indian. Drinks for two Rs 600.
30 Hauz Khas Village; +91 989 9383 899; open 11 a.m.-1 a.m.
Eat: The Grey Garden
Imagine a little Parisian café made from things found and old. The Grey Garden serves avant-garde thin crust pizzas with toppings such as pear, walnut and rocket lettuce.
Wonder about the little things stuck in the table's glass cases and cool down with cucumber water.
If you feel like the Indian fare, try the exotic steamed fish served with a tamarind rice and a mango chutney or for the old school rice and dal staple.
On alternate Fridays, The Grey Garden hosts a supper club, a themed dinner on a communal dining table with drinks for Rs 1,500 per person. Meal for two Rs 600.
13A Hauz Khas Village; open Monday-Friday 5 p.m.-11pm
It’s dark in here, and the menu reads in part Malayalam, but the hot cup of rasam served with a lentil papad on a palm leaf just as you sit down gives you plenty of time to guess at the translations.
Start with the dahi vada to cool you down, try the erulli rawa dosai (onion rawa dosa) to open your sinuses and end with a hot gulab jamun.
Naivedyam’s coffee is authentic south Indian and the paan afterwards will help digestion, but should you come at dinner time and feel like some nostalgia, they serve Bournvita. Meal for two Rs 400.
1 Haus Khas Village; +91 (0)11 2696 0426 or 2623 6364; open 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Gunpowder is exactly as its name suggests: that extra mysterious chutney that flavors everything else.
The trek up to the third floor ends in a simultaneous gasp for breath and a cry of surprise. The deer park and the reservoir hang below your table, and if you’re up there on a full moon night, you’ll hear a few howls too. Best of all, you forget you’re in Delhi.
The bare, laid-back ambiance calls for a beer, which complements the aila fry (mackerel) starter. Some of the jewels in this Kerala/Tamil/Andhra kitchen are the stuffed parottas and the toddy shop meen curry. But they change their simple A4 printed menu according to what’s fresh and local that season, and it is for that reason, that when you look through the window into their kitchen, the head chef, Satish Warrier, is jiving to music and stirring animatedly. Meal for two Rs 600.
22 Hauz Khas Village; +91 (0)11 2653 5700. open Tuesday-Sunday noon-3 p.m. and 7.30 p.m.-11 p.m.
History: Deer Park and the reservoir
This extensive park, previously farmland, is dotted with deer. Peacocks, guinea pigs and a great variety of birds like the purple sunbird, the rose-ringed parakeet and the rarer barbet -- can be spotted right here in central New Delhi.
The park garlands a great (khas) reservoir of water (hauz), built by Ala-Ud-Din-Khilji in the 13th century, from where the village borrows its name.
Delhi Heritage Walks leads historical walks through the park and its adjoining tombs.
Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m., entry free.
History: Madrassa and its pavilions
Feroz Shah Tuglaq built this madrassa in the 14th century, and it became a center of learning for Islamic scholars.
In the 20th century, it was declared a protected monument and it is now a place to look out upon the reservoir, or for younger kids to play cricket in its fields.
Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m., entry free.
Art: Delhi Art Gallery
Delhi Art Gallery is one of New Delhi’s oldest, and owns its entire collection of India’s pre-moderns, moderns and contemporary artists.
If you’re interested in the old masters -- Raza, Husain, Tagore, F.N. Souza and Padamsee -- and aren't inclined to question the authenticity of the multi-dimensional and the outlandish, Delhi Art Gallery can be considered a safe place to buy.
Ongoing exhibition: A retrospective of Chittaprosad till August 20.
11 Hauz Khas Village; +91 (0)11 4600 5300; open Monday-Saturday 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
Alternative thought: Yodakin
Yodakin is not only a store-house for non-mainstream publishers, but a space to explore and expand thought that is considered alternative.
Past events have included readings on food, as-yet-unpublished novellas and popularly, discussions and performances on the erotic -- an event organized by The Pleasure Project.
Follow their Facebook page for upcoming performances.
2 Hauz Khas Village; +91 (0)11 2653 6283; open Tuesday noon–8 p.m.; Wednesday-Monday 2 p.m.-8 p.m.
Shop: The People’s Project
With its essence in socially-conscious practices, this is a store that is run by the Happy Hands foundation. The People’s Project hosts an eclectic range of tiny things from artisans across India.
Started by a couple of girls from Kamala Nehru College, they collaborate beyond just selling their wares (lamps, paper weights, match boxes, jewelry, bags, curios) and instead host workshops by these artisans who display their process and their skill.
Workshops in various art forms, under the program Capital D, are planned every other weekend. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Product range from Rs 30-4,500.
48 Basement Hauz Khas Village; +91 (0)11 2658 4977; open 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Monday - Friday
Shop: O Layla
O Layla is full of color, reflecting its aesthetic of “sustainable fashion."
Quirky clothes and accessories are made from recycled waste material in an effort to utilize old handmade methods to reinvent what Ritu Kumar, O Layla’s Mumbai-based founder, calls “desi cool." Product range from Rs 75 – Rs 4,500.
21 Hauz Khas Village; +91 (0)11 2651 3821; open Monday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.
Shop: Ahana Organic
Ahana Organic is a family-owned farm that grows rice, grains, pulses, herbs, spices and fruits. They also concoct essential oils, pickles, and condiments, free of fertilizers, pesticides and the artificiality that pollutes much of our food today.
Through this, they are committed to sustainable agriculture and the sustainable development of their farmers. Look out for their Karehni Wild Rice (Rs 90).
24 Hauz Khas Village; +91 981 0537 978; open Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Shop: Indian Popular Art
The young men who own this store insist that they have been here since before time, and that their grandmother is the oldest landlady in the area.
They do not have a website, an email address or a phone number but if you go over there and ask them anything about old posters -- from cinema to pop phrases to architecture to music-- they have the answers.
Postcards start at Rs 300 and old Hindi movie posters start at Rs 1,000 each.
5 Hauz Khas Village; open Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Shop: The Grey Garden Store
Neighboring the Grey Garden restaurant, this store houses the 11.11 brand by CELLDSGN, Mia Morikawa’s accessories label Kapowow and lifestyle products of MNLS from Austria.
The ethereal white and earth-toned design of the store is theatrical and instantly draws attention.
The store and the restaurant make you understand the other better.
Mia Morikawa’s interchangeable neck and head-pieces, albeit too hot to wear in the summer, are a highlight, and whilst appearing heavy, are light as feathers, which they resemble.
Her design installation made of pieces of white string to mimic a disco ball or the universe (small difference), makes the store itself a work of art. Range from Rs 1,800-22,000.
13 A Hauz Khas Village; +91 (0)11 2651 6450; open 11 a.m.-11 p.m.